MOON LAKE — An hour and a half after the last bell on the last day of school, Robby Russell drove his black, two-door Mustang down Moon Lake Road. His friend Zachary Kersey, 15, was in the passenger seat. It was June 3, and Robby, 16, was doing errands for his parents. He paid the power bill. He was headed to his dad's auto shop to pick up a carburetor to deliver to a customer.
Robby passed slow traffic by using the dirt shoulder on the right, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. When he merged back on the road, he lost control, slid into the oncoming lane and crashed into two cars.
Robby and Zachary were flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Another driver was treated at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
Robby died a little after 6 p.m. the next day. He was going to be a sophomore next year at River Ridge.
In the past, he talked with his dad, Rick Russell, about wanting to be an organ donor if something were to happen to him. His kidneys were transplanted into two people in the Tampa Bay area. Rick wishes more organs could have been donated, because that's what his son would have wanted.
"Robby was phenomenal," Rick said. "He made people feel comfortable."
Rick said Zachary is home from the hospital and sore, but doing okay. He said the other driver was treated and released the night of the accident.
Rick got Robby the 1982 Mustang last year, just before Robby turned 16. He traded a truck for it.
The car wasn't in good shape, but Robby kept working on it. He planned to spend this summer rebuilding the engine. Robby loved his car and motorcycles and girls.
Rick warned him about being safe on the road, but he still felt like Robby didn't understand how quickly a person could lose control of a car. Robby raced motocross. He had been around cars and bikes for years.
Days after the accident, Rick went to the lot where Robby's car is being held. He needed to get his son's belongings.
Rick's body shook going there, but once he saw the car — and how damaged it was — all he felt was relief. He thanked God that Zachary and the others in the accident weren't severely injured. It could have been so much worse.
"Robby never could have lived with himself if he hurt someone," Rick said.
The driver's side was demolished, he said. Robby was likely brain-dead on impact, Rick said. He doesn't believe Robby was in pain or suffered.
Robby's memorial service was Sunday at home. Rick said 300 people came; many were kids and teachers. As Rick listened to their stories — of Robby's kindness, of how his positive spirit rubbed off on others — Rick felt thankful for the people who loved his son and for the time he had with Robby. As his father, he felt so proud of Robby.
"It was short," Rick said, "but he had a great life."
Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.